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Wednesday, 20 February 1980
Page: 126

Mr KERIN (Werriwa) -This debate is as much about the inappropriate shooting from the lip response of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to Russia's invasion of Afghanistan as it is about the invasion itself. The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) has based his speech on some strategic concepts relating to this part of the world. Let me take up some of them. Russia did not have to take Afghanistan to mine the Straits of Hormuz. It could do that at any time from ships in the Indian Ocean if it wanted to. Russia does not have to take Afghanistan to invade Iran. It can go directly through Iran to the Persian Gulf. After all, much of the supplies by the United States of America to Russia in World War II went through Iran. Northern Afghanistan is relatively trackless compared with northern Iran. It is the geography of the region that has dictated the United States having air bases in Turkey.

There are many issues that the Prime Minister's response has initiated, each requiring calm, detailed debate, but the debate cannot be calm and consensual due to the Prime Minister's blustering and the cant, humbug, hypocrisy and inconsistency of the Government on the issue. In a nutshell, if the threat was of the magnitude painted, his response, including the Olympic Games boycott, would have stuck. But it was he and his Government which wrecked his case. The rutile decision was the turning point.

Let us look at the basic issue. No one but a handful of ideologues in Australia has a good word to say for Russia on this issue. It was not necessary for Russia to invade Afghanistan for us to know what sort of power Russia is. It is not a revelation to learn that Russia is run by a pack of imperialists. The Prime Minister is trying to make Afghanistan an episode different in kind and degree from Russia's invasion of Hungary and Czechoslovakia and he is doing so at a time when the weight of most considered opinion has conceded the opposite. Afghanistan may not have been an eastern bloc country as such, but it is a border country which has been essentially in the Soviet sphere of influence since 1919. The Russians believe in geo-political theories of the heartland. We know of the Russian oppression of satellite countries and the Baltic states. We know of the oppression of human rights in the Soviet Union. After all, our Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence brought down an excellent and comprehensive report on this subject last year. We know of the oppression of human rights in the Soviet Union due to the publicity given to the plight of its writers, intellectuals and would-be Jewish emigrants. We know that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is run by old hard liners.

Any informed observer would have known of the Russian influence in Afghanistan, particularly since the Marxist coup of 1978. On 4 January 1979 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that 100 Russian advisers had been publicly tortured and murdered in Afghanistan. Anyone concerned with that part of the world knew of the superpower involvement in Afghanistan over a long period and of the basic history of the constant conflict between tribal and racial groups, the lack of effective central government and the problem of the setting of boundaries. But now the Australian public is bewildered by the Prime Minister's rhetoric and the results of it.

Looking back over the past weeks, what has it all been about? When the Prime Minister first said that Russia's actions were cynically opportunistic my first reaction, given the Prime Minister's record in the cynical opportunism stakes, was that perhaps the Prime Minister had said this out of admiration as much as condemnation. If the exercise has been all about having a peg to hang more defence spending on, there has been a lot of theatre about it. The defence elements of the Prime Minister's statement will require a separate debate. One hopes and prays that we will be allowed to have a debate on it. I say that because there has been defence statement after defence statement in this Parliament over the last year and there has been no debate on it. The report by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, which is known as the Katter report, was snuck in during the last hours of last year's Parliament. The 1976 White Paper on defence, which sensibly put down defence spending options for five years, was scrapped, revamped and done away with. There has simply been no consistent thread in the defence policy of this Government.

If it had just been all about abusing Russians then there would have been little disagreement but we would not have known for what purpose. The Prime Minister says that the Russians will use the Olympic Games for propaganda purposes. Of course they will. But this has little to do with Afghanistan. As he says, and I agree, the Soviet Communist Party will use the Games to brainwash the Russian people, but this situation has always persisted. If the Prime Minister felt strongly about this aspect of it he would have accepted the views expressed about a year ago by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) on the Games. The Prime Minister projected himself onto the world stage not only as an angry man but also as one who was going to do what he could about the situation. What we could have done was impose sanctions, but that has now fallen flat through the Government's own actions. The reason why the public is bewildered is that the invasion was accepted by the Prime Minister in the Cold War terms of the 1950s on the premises of the period of gun-boat diplomacy.

No other explanation was sought or seen other than a blitzkreig by Russia in a so-called nonaligned country for eventual control of oil and the acquisition of a warm-water port as a prelude to world conquest. I say 'so-called non-aligned countries' because over the last two or three years it has been run by increasingly ineffectual Marxist regimes. The strategic view as to the question of oil has arguments in its favour but not immediately. Russia has reserves of only 10 billion barrels short of those of Saudi Arabia and exports oil to Europe. It had a warm-water port in the Indian Ocean and gave it up. The water may be cold in Vladivostok and Petroplovask but it suffices for the Russian navy.

No response other than emphasising our horror, in words, has been put forward. All we stand for is condemnation. Little has been said about what should be done other than arming such renowned democrats as Zia al Huk. It is the Prime

Minister's response and his frame of mind that have caused him to say that detente is dead, and the Minister for Defence backs him. I say that it is better for there to be a vague detente than a specific and deliberate war. Is the Prime Minister suggesting that his militant and warlike responses would have been a better form of management of that highly volatile and unstable period of the 1950s and 1960s?

Opposition to Russia and detente and heavy United States involvement in the Indian Ocean has long been the desire of the Prime Minister. It is obvious that he has confused his own Ministers, who are conspicuous by their lack of public utterances on the issue over the last month. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) dignified himself by wrecking the Government line on the Olympic Games while both the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) carefully put themselves well apart from the position and deluded Cold War rhetoric of the Prime Minister. The trip taken by the Foreign Minister was the sane one, the proper one for Australia and the professional one that would have identified us as a sensible medium power on which regional neighbours could rely. The Minister for Defence did not want to countenance talk of the use of tactical nuclear weapons. I suspect that he deplores the war-mongering elements of the Press in Australia.

As I have said, it is the Government's actions which have wrecked the Government's case. The Government's actions on sanctions against Russia are now ridiculous. First rutile was strategic and to be banned and then it was not. It will still be used by Russia for rockets and jet planes. Extra wheat is strategic but existing contracts are to be filled- somewhat of a hollow gesture because we cannot physically ship more wheat. Wool is not strategic according to the Deputy Prime Minister. Apparently it is all right for the Russian bear to sleep in Australian wool blankets and kill Afghans in Australian wool uniforms as long as he does not get extra wheat. There is no sense in saying that wool is not strategic. The reason is that if the Russians pull out of the wool market the prices will collapse. This has nothing to do with the fact that Russia produces a lot of wool itself. Coarse grain shipments have been cancelled but no one seems to know what compensation will be paid to Australian growers. Australia continues to sell rifles to Russia and Russian cruise ships will continue to operate until the end of the cruise season. We have cancelled a fishing agreement and a visit by Russian basketballers but any trade that the National Country Party condones is to go ahead.

The Prime Minister's use of sanctions is inconsistent, particularly with respect to our participation in the Olympics. At present we are all happily participating in the Winter Olympics. Is it all right to ski with the Russians but not to swim with them? Instead of standing over the Australian Olympic Federation and its sponsors, the Prime Minister should simply say that we will not participate if he really believes and has reasons to believe a world war is three days away and that the invasion is the greatest threat to world peace since World War II. If the threat is as bad as the Prime Minister has painted it we should exact every sanction against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. As it has transpired that we are not doing so, it follows that our athletes should not have to bear the brunt of the Prime Minister's views. It is intolerable in a democracy for amateur sporting organisations to be forced to agree to a political belief.

The Prime Minister's views are not consistently anti-communist any more. He praises the Chinese communists, he supports the Rhodesian marxists, and he recognises the most vicious murdering communist regime ever, that of Pol Pot. The Prime Minister's views are not consistently pro-human rights. He supports and wishes to arm the present ruler of Pakistan, who recently murdered the former Prime Minister. He recognises Pol Pot and has had nothing to say about Russian-backed attacks on Eritrea- or at least not until this week- or the murders in Chile or on the trampling of human rights in countries closer to us such as Sri Lanka, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia. The Prime Minister's views are not even consistently anti-aggression. He turned a blind eye to, if not encouraged, Indonesia's killing and starvation of tens of thousands of Timorese on our doorstep. We can also cite China's invasion of Vietnam and Vietnam's invasion of Kampuchea.

The further away from Australia and the less likely it is that Australia can or will do anything about the situation, the harder the Prime Minister shouts. The last example was his African diplomacy, when his attempt to straddle the world like a colossus ended in Australia sending a token military force, as pan of the 1,200-men five-nation Commonwealth monitoring force, to Rhodesia following the Lancaster House settlement. On Afghanistan, the Prime Minister is attempting to repeat his colossus gymnastics and this time the price is not the safety of 150 Australian soldiers sent as a contribution to the ceasefire force in Rhodesia but the fate of Australia's young athletes, who have devoted years of their lives to the pinnacle the prospect of the Olympic Games presents. Rhodesia is a huge international dilemma, and so is Afghanistan. We should not be any less concerned about either of them.

The Prime Minister's sound and fury signifies next to nothing. While he roars and bellows on these great issues, Australia's carefully built up relationships with the countries in our region are allowed to fall by the wayside. It is in this region that our chief interests lie- in the Association of South East Asian Nations and beyond to IndoChina and its stability, and in the South Pacific, where Australia's historical role in a colonial setting is being transformed into a donor major power. It is the Kampuchean tragedy which presents our region with a huge refugee problem, affecting one of our closest neighbours, Malaysia, most seriously of all. Yet the fate of Kampuchea and its consequences, where Australia really could stand up and be counted and put her money where her mouth is, has been forgotten in the frenzy and the fray, as a preference for pointless posturing replaces the practical policies which can have enormous implications for the region in which we live.

To repeat, it is not that the Afghan crisis is any less serious than the Prime Minister suggests, it is more that other problems of foreign policy more real to Australia remain. We are not alone in this. For Middle East countries such as Jordan, for example, the biggest single issue of the creation of a Palestinian homeland has not been replaced by Afghanistan, any more than Afghanistan precedes concern for the return of civil war in Lebanon, with the prospect of the withdrawal of the Syrian peacekeeping force. Those are their main concerns. They are local ones with which they have to live, and so it should be for Australians. It is an accepted maxim of both good management and good sense that we should put our own house in order before sallying forth to sort out our neighbour's, and for more than a decade we have been protesting that our house is in our region. Slowly and painstakingly we have sought to be accepted in the region as something other than an outpost of Western and alien influence. The credibility of that effort will have been seriously undermined by the Prime Minister's dash to Washington at the drop of the first Afghan hat. Surely good sense and previous foreign policy propositions suggest that our first concern should have been to consult with our regional allies on a prospective joint course of action if we believed that Afghanistan was a threat to us, and so to them. Lee Kuan Yew will not be alone in seeing the travels of the Minister for Foreign Affairs as a sideshow to the main act and so seeing us as exactly what we are.

The Prime Minister has hence turned back the clock, not only to the days of the cold war, which were characterised by arms races and crises at every turn, but also to days when we ignored what we saw as an alien region in favour of close association with Europe and the West. His sins are compounded by a style of diplomacy to shout from the rooftops. We should surely get on quietly with what we think must be done to contain this power which the Prime Minister presented yesterday afternoon as so aggressive and expansionist. Such quiet diplomacy offers us and them the face-saver for mistaken estimates or illconceived goals. We learnt at the time of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 that the face-saver is the essential element in crisis management. For all the allies the Prime Minister has sought, to stand behind his case, the weight of much expert analysis- not the least that of George Kennan, the very architect of America's policy of containment of the Soviet Union- is that the Soviet's invasion of Afghanistan was more defensive than offensive in a traditional Soviet determination to ensure the stability and, to a degree, the loyalty of the territories which border the Soviet Union. As Mr Kennan wrote in the Melbourne Age of 14 February:

In the official American interpretation of what occurred in Afghanistan, no serious account appears to have been taken of such specific factors as geographic proximity -

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